Tag-Archive for » Black Box Fallacy «

“A Place For My Stuff”

Once upon a time, I was working at a progressively thinking non-profit organization. The recession (that “R” word) had hit and we needed new ways to get our message across during especially difficult and uncertain times. We turned to social media and as one of the younger people in the office I was expected to take a lead (I also wanted to keep my job) and adopt social media, even if I did not fully “get” it. I embraced it and got recognition for trying new things and having my finger on the pulse of some of the new trends. Another organization saw this, wanted to incorporate that and subsequently hired me. To my dismay and naive surprise, it has not been embraced. Thus far, I would say I have not really explained the importance of social media in a convincing way that would make sense to an office of older folks. They do not want anybody to see their personal Facebook page (regardless of the privacy settings). They do not fully understand that we are in an age of mass interaction with the ways we communicate. I could not properly and justly communicate this, which is something I have been doing with my own media devices and life…convergence.

The Future Is Now

I am all for media convergence. I also understand the reluctance of change for people of past generations. I can sympathize to a degree, but come on people, some of you grew up on The Jetsons! You had to know we would be moving forward by now. I was not able to attend the ICM orientation a few weeks back. A question asked was what were our latest digital “hobbies?” I would not have worded it correctly then, but my hobby as of late is convergence of media devices. I am watching my movies on my computer on my Xbox. I tend to buy products of same brand (mostly Samsung and Apple) so they “play nice” with each other, yet I still feel I have too many devices.

Using Wikipedia almost daily (even if facts are not always accurate), I can recognize the collective convergence of knowledge from millions of different sources to one collective website. The Blaise Aguera y Arcas demo is a perfect example of what French cybertheorist Pierre Levy calls “collective intelligence.” It is a wonderful illustration of pooling together images across various platforms such as Flickr, mobile devices, etc. and creating something really powerful and amazing on Photosynth. This really exemplifies the old adage the sum being greater than the individual parts with active participation from various users (a fine example of mass interaction as well). Another factor examined in the Seadragon version of the demo, was a traditional form of media taking on a new shape. For the past several years, media “pundits” declare the death of print media. As Jenkins in says in Convergence Culture, “Delivery technologies become obsolete and get replaced; media, on the other hand, evolve” (13). The Seadragon absolutely coveys this. A high resolution newspaper or magazine with the look of the print we have come to know and love is a great thing in my opinion. There is more screen real estate to have more articles and space for ads, which we can zoom in and see the specifications of certain products. Jenkins quote reminds me of the phrase, “don’t shoot the messenger” gone reverse. Don’t get married to the messenger either because it might just leave you and take a different form.

Too Much Stuff

How far can this “convergence” go? As Jenkins says, “Sooner or later, the argument goes, all media content is going to flow through a single black box into our living rooms” (14). He refers to this as the “Black Box Fallacy.” I personally look forward to the day this happens, but I realize a black box that stores all of your media might scare some people not ready for this. In non-technological speak, George Carlin (in a way) sums up a need for convergence (the fact that we have too much stuff),

“Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That’s all, a little place for my stuff. That’s all I want, that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody’s got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that’s your stuff, that’ll be his stuff over there. That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

Sooner than later, we will be able to walk around with all of “our stuff” (in a media sense). When you make it sound that simple, convergence and mass interaction can be easier for some folks to digest. In the mass interaction side of things, I have turned the page with some of my work colleagues at my current job towards social media. Twitter frightens them, but I remind them that the business “after hours” did not sit that well with me (I sometimes want to go home at the end of the work day). When referring to Twitter as “the world’s largest cocktail party” this tends to sink in. While social media may have been the norm from my previous job and current education, I have to understand that not everyone has the capacity to understand how quickly we are moving (it still makes the job challenging and interesting).

In the end, “convergence refers to a process, not an endpoint.” I do not have time to mourn of the tail-end of a delivery system’s lifespan, there is a better more effective and convenient one around the corner. I have seen our cultural convergence, I live in this media convergence and while I cannot really predict exactly where we are headed, I must say, I am not all that scared.

References:

  1. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture, Introduction: “Worship at the alter of convergence” (pp. 1-24). New York: NYU Press.
  2. Blaise Aguera y Arcas Photosynth demo at TED. link
  3. Jon Reid, Twitter Is A Cocktail Party, twitip.com
  4. Carlin, G. (1981). A Place For My Stuff On A Place For My Stuff [CD].  New York, NY: Atlantic Recording Corporation.